California rolls out new Dungeness crab regulations to reduce entanglements

Published on
October 28, 2020

California officials on Monday, 26 October, announced new Dungeness crab fishing regulations designed to reduce encounters with several endangered species.

The new regulations, which will take effect on Saturday, 1 November, call for fishermen to lower the number of traps in areas where a higher number of whales or sea turtles are present. The state also reserves the right to close an area if an entanglement occurs.

In addition, the state will allow fishermen to use alternative gear in waters closed to conventional traps. Also known as “pop-up” gear, lines remain with traps and some types of traps will send a signal that enable a floatation device within the gear.

According to a release from the environmental nonprofit Oceana, the regulations are needed because humpback whales, blue whales, and leatherback sea turtles are moving into areas that have served as crab-fishing grounds. As a result, the number of entanglements are on the rise, and according to NOAA Fisheries, three-quarters of the whale entanglements result in fatalities. Between 2015 and 2019, NOAA Fisheries reported at least 40 whale entanglements on the West Coast in three of those years. Before 2010, the average was eight per year.

Among the new regulations, fishermen must report the location, depth and quantity of traps. By 2023, they must also start using electronic monitoring of traps.

“These new regulations will help make sure that while trying to catch crab we’re not also harming whales and sea turtles,” Oceana California Campaign Manager and Senior Scientist Geoff Shester. “We welcome the new opportunity to test and expand innovative pop-up gear to allow for safer and more sustainable crab fishing in the future. Sadly, gear entanglement occurs everywhere in the world’s oceans, and if we can solve the crab pot line problem here, we could help provide solutions to prevent entanglements around the world.”

Photo courtesy of Julie DeGuia/Shutterstock

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